Lead author Dr. Sanjay Basu, an assistant professor of medicine at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, and colleagues examined data on global sugar availability and diabetes rates from 175 countries over the past decade.
The study, published in the journal PLoS One, found, after accounting for obesity and a large array of other factors, increased sugar in a population's food supply was linked to higher type 2 diabetes rates, independent of obesity rates.
"It was quite a surprise," Basu said in a statement. The research was conducted while Basu was a medical resident at University of California, San Francisco, and working with senior author Dr. Robert Lustig, a pediatric endocrinologist at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital.
"We're not diminishing the importance of obesity at all, but these data suggest that at a population level there are additional factors that contribute to diabetes risk besides obesity and total calorie intake, and that sugar appears to play a prominent role," the researchers said.
For every additional 150 calories of sugar available per person per day, the prevalence of diabetes in the population rose 1 percent, even after controlling for obesity, physical activity, other types of calories and a number of economic and social variables, the study found.
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